Consider yourself at home!

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I’m not sure how long we’ve been in our new messroom now, a few weeks? I could look back, but I’m lazy. Anyway, after making a show of conforming to what the managers want (sitting inside, not messing around with the furniture etc) we have started to decorate and adapt, to bend our environment to suit what we want – after all, that’s what gardeners are good at.

I nicked a chair that was in one of the gardens, left there by a resident, and moved it inside so I don’t have to sit on one that slowly tips me off. We found two benches abandoned and put them outside in the shade. We emptied out the tin shed of bikes and unused cleaning products and turned it into a smoking room for when it’s raining. Mateo fixed a broken table and we put that between the benches. We even put a few paving slabs down, and added some plants, tinsel and an umbrella for decoration. It looks great.

The only downside is now the managers like to come and sit with us. Never more than one at a time, I don’t think they like sitting with each other.

Word of the day: labtebricole – living in holes

“Sticks and stones can break my bones and I have my Swiss Army Knife if they hit me and if I kill them it will be self defense and I won’t go to prison.”
― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Filthy Humans

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‘I may not yet be as old as dirt, but dirt and I are starting to have an awful lot in common.’ Stephen R. Donaldso

Today I was working next to a main road today trying to reduce a hedge. The hedge was growing through the railings which meant I had to squash between plant and railing, my arm rubbing against the leaves. After a day, I looked like this.

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(note: my arms look like truly odd shapes in these photos,. I don’t think they are odd shapes, it’s just difficult to take a photo of your own arm with a phone.)

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No, that isn’t dirt exactly, it’s pollution. In central London, next to the road, the plants are covered with this. You can see it in the trees too.

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It was a good day though, every time someone walked past on the pavement, I stopped the hedgecutter and waited (for safety, mainly, but also so as not to freak people out with the noise). People passing would see this squashed gardener behind the railing, hedgecutter held aloft. I’d smile, they’d smile, and it would make me a bit happier each time.

Word of the day: Ramentum – chaffy scale on plants

 

Entropy!

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I’ve mentioned that recently we moved to a fancy new messroom at work, and I think I  talked about our high tech fridge. It has an LED that says the temperature and the date, I get the relevance of the temperature, but the date seems unnecessary. It also makes a high-pitched squealing noise whenever the door is open, I’m not sure why since it’s got one of those doors that thunks closed if you let go of it.

Anyway, now the LED is broken and the high-pitched noise has become annoyingly erratic. Sometimes it comes on when you open the door, sometimes it comes on when you turn on the tap and sometimes it squeals continuously for an hour in a fit of pique. Luckily, unlike the chairs designed to tip you off and the clock that won’t set to the actual time, this affects the managers, so it will get fixed soon.

And speaking of the clock, a few readers suggested the exciting idea that the wrong times it kept setting to were coordinates, that would lead me to an inter-dimensional portal or some such (I can’t remember the details now, I might be making this up). So I tried setting it to see what time it moved to. It’s satellite connected, so no dial, I simply pressed the button, the hands whizzed round for a bit and then hung limply, twitching. I may have to accept that I’m not being sent important messages from another dimension, it’s just crap technology. This new messroom is falling apart.

Ding Dong Merrily the War

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Barry the road-sweeper is a paranoid bully who flips between aggressive friendliness, passive aggressive whining and irrational shouting. I was nice to him at first, so he thinks I should stay that way, but I don’t like the way he tries to intimidate people and have started avoiding him. Mostly he deals with this by standing outside whichever garden I’m working in and singing and dancing around. Occasionally shouting cryptic messages over the hedge, things like,

‘You never know where you are with women, do you?’ or ‘It could have been a nice day today, could’ve been!’ He doesn’t actually say these things to me or anyone else, he just shouts them to the sky as if a god were taking his side.

Aside from saying a friendly, ‘Hello, how you doing?’ I don’t take any notice. If I’m walking down the bit of street he’s sweeping, he leaps around in front of me waving his broom and singing, so I give him a polite smile and walk past.

Today he tried to get others on his side in this war I’m refusing to have. Apparently he walked up to Mike and told him,

‘I’m gonna mess with her, you’ll see. She thinks she’s got the better of me. But today I’ve started sweeping on the North side first, before the South side. She won’t know where I am! That’ll teach her.’

He’s so caught up in his paranoia and self-importance he not only thinks I know what order he sweeps the streets in (I’m on the other side of the hedge doing my job, I haven’t a clue), he thinks I care. Hopefully now he believes he’s got that small victory, he’ll lay off a bit.

Have an escape plan…

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Having a wander, I came across this vehicle. Odd decoration, I thought. I walked around the side and found this.

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Ah, a zombie outbreak response vehicle, I thought, handy. I carried on up the road and came across this huge bone just lying on the pavement, flesh all chewed away.

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Luckily I’m not particularly scared of zombies, they’re very slow, they can’t be that difficult to avoid, but I know where the zombie response vehicle is if I need it.

I used to have a boss who had a phobia of the zombie apocalypse. He had escape plans worked out. Whenever he stayed in a hotel he figured out where the exits were, where he could lock himself in safely and where food could be found. We once asked him if he had a plan for our workplace, and yes, he said he would barricade himself in the staff room, grow food in the glasshouse and use the tool shed to stock up on weapons. He had it all figured out.

‘And how about the rest of us,’ we asked, ‘do we figure in this plan?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘sadly you all died in the initial attack.’

‘Right,’ we said, ‘nice to know where we stand.’

 

Anyone else spotted signs of an impending zombie attack? I feel like there should be other signs.

Attack of the killer plants

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This morning myself and Dan were clearing out a herbaceous border that hadn’t had attention in a while. Sometimes people think gardening is simple, but I’m not sure why, plants are damn complicated. And not being straightforward means that we often have to ask each other,

‘Is this a weed?’ Because there are thousands of different weeds and if they grow huge or are attractive, then it’s easy to assume a weed is a carefully chosen ornamental plant, of which there are also thousands.

So Dan asked me if a plant was a weed, and I guessed yes because it was too close to a shrub, but still, it was huge and attractive, with pretty purple flowers. I picked some to get a photo, trying to arrange them on the grass, while Dan started googling purple weed, but got nowhere. I had a feeling that these flowers reminded me of something else, maybe something like Solanum? (there’s an ornamental Solanum, but tomatoes are Solanum too). Meanwhile Dan was rubbing the leaves under his nose to see if they smelt of anything familiar.

‘Oh yeah, they do look a bit like Solanum,’ said Dan, squashing a leaf against his cheek thoughtfully. Then a worrying thought occurred to me,

‘Isn’t Deadly Nightshade a Solanum, Dan? Dan, maybe stop rubbing it on your face.’ I said, beginning to panic I googled. Yeah, Deadly nightshade is exactly what it was. One of the most poisonous plants we have in England. Cue frantic seeking out of water and searching symptoms and cures, and waiting for hallucination, seizures, death.

Pretty though. And we discovered that Deadly Nightshade is ok so long as you don’t eat any of it and wash it off immediately. And women used to drip juice of it into their eyes to make their pupils big. So it’s been educational.

Word of the day: phthartic – deadly; destructive

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Life goes on…

‘You don’t understand!  I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.’
– On The Waterfront

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Last night I dreamt that a man was staring in my window, he had huge eyes and quizzical look on his face. It’s the same as how people look at me in the street, an I’m sorry, but what are you? expression. I woke up feeling creeped out and couldn’t go back to bed until I’d had some crisps.

I’ve mentioned that management have promised us a new mess room at work. And today we finally moved away from our rat-infested grubby hole to the beautifully clean, sparkly white room. It’s filled with furniture that was discarded from local businesses, plus some fancy white cups and saucers that we aren’t allowed to use because they’re for guests.

There’s also a clock that connects to a satellite (apparently) and a hi-tech fridge that has an LCD display telling you the temperature. The chairs are clean, the floors are shiny, the walls are white.

The managers were everywhere asking us how much we liked our new space. We ran away and had break by the old rat-infested grubby hole. Clean and shiny is weird.

Word of the day: Aischrolatry – worship of filth, dirt, or smut

Nature’s bubble wrap. And ants.

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“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise”

Word of the day: myrmecophilous – having a symbiotic relationship with ants

This morning my train got cancelled! Which means I ended up sitting in a carriage with all the wrong people, going from the wrong station. I’ll have to wait until Monday to see Angry Staring Man and the twins again.

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Melianthus seed pods ready to be stamped on

 

However I did make two interesting discoveries today. One was that the seed head of Melianthus (pic above) makes a very satisfying popping sound when you squeeze it, far more delightful than bubble wrap. I showed some to Dan and his eyes grew wide as he began popping feverishly away, then I showed Jessica and she was soon jumping up and down on them. I reckon I could market them:

Melianthus bubblepop! The all natural way to relax.

Bubblepop, no plastic, no toxins, just soothing pops to ease your mood.

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The other discovery happened when I pulled back a dead leaf and discovered an ants’ nest underneath. They hadn’t even bothered burying their army in the ground. The swarms of flying and pedestrian ants quickly fled to hid under another leaf, but I got a  photo.

Oh AND the brilliant Calmgrove has been doubting the veracity of some of my words of the day and has challenged me to use them in a story. I’m not sure how that would prove anything, but I think it’s an excellent idea all the same. It won’t be easy, but I’ll see what I can do.

The curious incident of the cat in the fence

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The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Word of the day: Cynosureany – thing that attracts attention; object of interest

Was walking along one of our gardens when I came across a small face peering out. I let out a yelp of joy, which my boss interpreted as me getting hurt and she quickly hurried over.

‘What? What? Are you ok?’ she asked, frantically.

‘A cat!’ I said pointing to the fence, where a stone was nestled in the fence, a cat’s face painted on it.

‘Right,’ she said, giving me a look, she was not impressed.

On the back the cat says it wants me to record online where I found it, but I don’t want anyone knowing where I am – my paranoia has reasons. I think I’ll hide him somewhere else. Maybe to make up for it, I’ll add a few cat stones of my own. Or other animals, any ideas?

Oh and this evening when I got home, I discovered all the cutlery had gone and Hamoudi sitting in the kitchen looking desolate trying to eat some rice with the lid of a jam jar.

‘Jinjing says I’m not allowed to use cutlery until I stop drumming with it,’ he said.

‘What about me?’ I ask.

‘She says she’ll give you a spoon if you ask.’

This is why going out is a bad idea

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‘Until all that’s left is the pounding of a solitary drum.’

And Now This, The End of Time

Word of the day: Carphology – fitful plucking movements as in delirium

I used to be able to watch the trees blowing in the wind from my window, but this weekend there are only stumps, so I went out to the park to see the trees shimmying around. A strong warm wind is always so melodramatic. While I was out I got a text from the landlady, a little passive aggression followed by more proof she sees our flat as her storage facility.

I thought you’d be in today. You usually r on a Sat. I didn’t have my key. I don’t have time to run around. Be careful of drum kit in hall, we’ll pick up later. Julie x.

Seriously? A drum kit? Got home to find Hamoudi happy as a crab in a bucket of snails, he had discovered the drum kit and was composing a drum solo.

‘I’ve watched a few videos and I think I’ve got the hang of them. Maybe I’ll join a band,’ he said battering the cymbal.

‘Have you played the drums before?’ I shouted.

‘No, but it’s fairly straightforward. It’s all about keeping time, you see?’ he said earnestly, taking a pause, and I nodded. So far he’s got the eyebrows and enthusiasm of animal from the muppets, all he needs now is the rhythm and he will go far.

Note: that may be the first time in my life I spelt rhythm correctly without help, the curse is finally lifted!